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Dungeons, Detail and Design

Composer Steven Coltart on writing music for gaming…

The way young people experience music is changing. October 2018 saw the publication of the findings of a YouGov survey in association with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which showed the increasing influence of video game music and its value as an access point for classical music.

This access point is valuable both experientially and creatively, as opportunities open up for composers to work in sound design.

In this month’s guest blog, The Music Workshop Company talks to composer Steven Coltart about his work writing and producing the score for Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier.

Steven has worked extensively across film, games and television, but Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier provided a hitherto unique opportunity for him…


Can you tell us a bit about the game?

Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier is a narrative adventure game of conquest, betrayal and survival. When the fates of a tribe of apes and a band of human survivors intertwine, two worlds collide as their precarious existence hangs in the balance. It’s out now on PS4XBOX ONE and PC.

So how did you approach writing the music for this game?

Unlike with other games I had worked on, I treated this project as close to possible as a linear film score. From the off I was opposed to using any loops, menu theme aside, and instead all music was bespoke composed for the different pathway options. That became quite complex on the longer scenes, however the end result is far more filmic due to this approach.  

Crucially for this game I was involved across full production; not only composing the soundtrack, designing sound effects and ambiences, but also employed as audio lead. This included personally implementing all my music into Unreal too. 

Having this level of control and understanding allowed me to have attention to detail across both creative and technical areas. I believe the composer also implementing is quite unique on a project of this size, but in my opinion, is one of the strengths in the soundtrack’s success.  

I can see this process becoming more commonplace going forward. 

Steven in his studio

How do you retain your artistic creativity and freshness when you’re working within an existing franchise?

I have a signature “Coltart sound” that is consistent across all my video game, film and television work – an emotionally charged, cinematic sound –  something that offers a standout, gives my music uniqueness, an identity in a crowded market.    

There are a couple of themes that I’m particularly happy with which recur in Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier: Toms Burial and We Go Home.

Regarding the Toms Burial theme, a listener posted to my Twitter account: 

“There’s so much pain in it.” 

It’s a melancholy that’s ambient (so as not to distract from the storytelling) but has enough detail to give listeners enjoyment when playing the original soundtrack in isolation. That’s something I kept in the back of my mind across the full soundtrack: Does the music sound as good away from the game as it does supporting the game play in it?  If so, I’ve done my job.

When you’re recording your own sounds, can you tell us a bit about what goes on behind the scenes?

The game was developed at Ealing Studios, but lots of the sound designs in game were actually recorded on location in Norfolk. This included getting access to record at Norwich Castle* capturing sound designs such as skull handling and hall/ dungeon ambiences.

The game features several snowy scenes, and I headed out into rural south Norfolk countryside for the perfect snow recordings, both during daytime, and at night to ensure attention to detail, and immersion. Going above and beyond with these original audio recordings aided the cinematic storytelling.    

*Special thanks to John Holdaway, Anne Brown and Dr. David Waterhouse!


Steven works across games, film and television. See/ hear what he is up to at his website, https://www.stevencoltart.com/ and on Twitter @ColtartMusic

He has also personally developed highly current, specialist game audio content, which he currently delivers within the music department at The University of Hertfordshire.  The course has ongoing graduate success due to the implementation of audio middleware and UE4/ Unity.

If you or one of your students would like to know more about a career in game audio, check out the course specifications to find out more. 


If you would like to know more about The Music Workshop Company or book one of our bespoke workshops for your school or workplace, contact us today.

The Inspirational Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, died in August 2018 at the age of 76. With her death, among the musical tributes, came a rush of tabloid-style headlines about the notoriously private singer.

Franklin was a phenomenal artist with an unquestionable place in music history. The first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 1987), ranked number 1 on VH1’s Greatest Women of Rock N Roll, she sang at a memorial service for Martin Luther King Jr. (1968), at pre-inauguration concerts for Presidents Jimmy Carter (1977) and Bill Clinton (1993), and the inauguration of America’s first black President, Barak Obama (in 2009). In 1986, her voice was designated a “Natural Resource” by the State of Michigan. In 2008, she was voted the greatest singer of the rock era in a Rolling Stone magazine poll. During the 1988 Grammy Awards show, she stepped in for Luciano Pavarotti who was unable to appear due to ill health, performing the aria Nessun Dorma in his place. She went on to perform this aria several more times, the last of which was in Philadelphia for Pope Francis.

In a career spanning six and a half decades she placed more than 100 singles in the billboard charts, including 17 top 10 pop singles and 20 no. 1 hits on the R&B chart, a number matched only by Stevie Wonder and not yet bettered by any artist. Already a successful R&B/Soul singer in the 1960s, her 1967 recording of Otis Redding’s song RESPECT from the album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, which spent 2 weeks at number 1 in the billboard chart, won her international acclaim and mainstream recognition.

She received 18 competitive Grammy awards, has five recordings in the Grammy Hall of Fame (Respect, Amazing Grace, Chain Of Fools, A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like), and I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You) and was given a lifetime achievement award in 1994.

One remarkable aspect of Franklin’s career was the turbulent life that prompted the probing headlines. She wasn’t a textbook success story or a kid with all the opportunities. Born in Memphis, Tennessee and brought up in Detroit, Michigan, her childhood was full of challenges. Her parents separated when she was just 6 and her mother (who was a gospel singer and pianist) died at the age of just 34 of a heart attack when Franklin was only 10 years old. Her first marriage was abusive and her life was plagued by rumours of addiction – to alcohol (which Franklin denied) and cannabis – and by health problems associated with her weight.

In many ways, her upbringing and aspirations were reflective of the times. Part of a generation of black baby boomers who were still very church-orientated, she was brought up by her father, a minister of national influence who presided over New Bethel Baptist Church. Although she never learned to read music, as a young teenager, Franklin performed with her father on his gospel programmes in major cities and was recognised as a vocal prodigy.

On June 10, 1979, her father was shot at home at point blank range by a burglar when she was on stage in Las Vegas. For the five years until his death, he required 24-hour care.

Franklin made the move to secular music at the age of 18. With the support of her father, to whom she confided she wanted to follow in the footsteps of Sam Cooke and record pop songs, she moved to New York City, where she was signed by Colombia Records executive John Hammond. Hammond had previously signed Billie Holiday and Count Basie. She released her first single under Colombia at the age of 18, and although it reached number 10 on the Hot Rhythm and Blues Sellers chart and was met with critical acclaim, a lack of focus in her output at meant she initially struggled to find the success for which she was destined.

However, in 1966 when her contract with Colombia expired, she switched to Atlantic Records where, rather than determining her artistic direction, her producer Jerry Wexler gave her the freedom to explore her own musical identity.

Franklin returned to her gospel roots, exemplified by constantly improvisatory, airborne vocals, and I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (Atlantic, 1967) was her first million-seller. Her first single with Atlantic, RESPECT, became an anthem for personal, racial and sexual freedom in line with her own values.

Franklin was immersed throughout her life in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights. She provided money for civil rights groups and performed at benefits and protests. In 1970, when political activist, author and academic, Angel Davis was jailed, Franklin told Jet:

Angela Davis must go free, … Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.

Franklin was a strong advocate for Native American rights. Quietly and without publicity, she supported the struggles of indigenous people worldwide and numerous movements that supported Native American and First Nation cultural rights. She also donated heavily to churches and food banks in the Detroit area.

[Photo by Pete Souza]

Franklin gave her last full concert at the Ravinia Festival on September 3, 2017, and her final performance was at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City during Elton John’s 25th anniversary gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation on November 7, 2017. She died of advanced pancreatic cancer.

She is known for significant contributions to African-American pride and ‘female self-assertion,’ and reached the pinnacle of her profession at a time when black women were fighting to be seen and heard on their own terms.

It is impossible to give a true representation of such an expansive life and career in such a short space – she made hit after hit, possessed a phenomenal voice, presence and ability to persevere and excel against the odds. She remains quite simply a consummate artist: Both iconic – in black American culture, in mainstream culture and in music worldwide – and deeply human.

Aiming High with the Opera North Orchestra Academy

Acclaimed for the high quality of its operatic performances, Opera North also boasts one of the country’s finest orchestras. The Orchestra of Opera North plays at each of the Company’s operas and regularly performs at concerts in the region. An important, and enjoyable, additional strand of its work however, is ensuring that the next generation of young musicians are given valuable support, guidance and inspiration as they build on their playing expertise.

This month, the team at Opera North share their vision with MWC…

Opera North Orchestra Academy is the latest in a series of Opera North Education initiatives. It is an orchestral training programme for outstanding instrumentalists aged 14-19 years and studying at Grade 7 or above. During a week-long residential course in Leeds, which will take place between Tuesday 28 August and Saturday 1 September 2018, participants will be encouraged to take their playing and performance skills to the next level, whilst also getting the chance to meet like-minded young people and forge some life-long friendships along the way.

Throughout the week, the Academy musicians will rehearse exciting orchestral repertoire alongside the full Orchestra of Opera North and benefit from sectional coaching with the orchestra’s players in a bid to develop excellence in ensemble skills and orchestral performance. Guided by the players from the Orchestra of Opera North, the Academy musicians will also be given the opportunity to rehearse and perform chamber music, enhancing their overall music-making experience.

This video gives some idea of the community-centric focus held by Opera North. Here, the musicians of the orchestra create a surprise performance for shoppers in Leeds…

The Academy residential will culminate in a public concert under the baton of an internationally-renowned conductor, giving the Academy players a glimpse into what it takes to stage a professional orchestral performance and the excitement of the event itself. Subsequently, the participants will be invited to take part in ‘keeping in touch’ weekends during the October and February half terms and to join collaborative projects as part of the Opera North Youth Company.

Opera North’s Education Director, Jacqui Cameron, explains the idea behind the project:

The Orchestra Academy Summer Residency week aims to give everyone who takes part a valuable insight into working and rehearsing with a professional orchestra in an exciting and supportive environment. We decided to make entry by audition only to ensure that all participants are at the best stage in their playing to take advantage of this opportunity and for us to tailor the learning precisely to their needs.

It’s perfect for those who are already members of their local youth orchestra, as well as for students looking for an immersive musical experience during the summer. We hope that, having been given this glimpse of what it could be like, it will encourage many talented young players to consider pursuing a career in music with all the rewards that can bring.

The Company is well aware that some young people can be deterred by the idea of an audition so the process will be made as fun and friendly as possible to try and keep nerves to a minimum. The audition day will be split into two parts with an informal workshop in the morning where the young musicians will play some orchestral excerpts and learn about ensemble playing, followed by an opportunity to impress in the afternoon. The latter will be with the same players from the Orchestra of Opera North who have worked with the young people in the morning, so the auditionees will be playing their prepared solos in front of a friendly face. Whether successful or not, everyone will benefit from feedback on their playing and will hopefully leave the audition day having found it a positive learning experience.

The Orchestra Academy joins Opera North’s acclaimed portfolio of youth ensembles for both young instrumentalists and singers of all ages and abilities, including Opera North Junior Strings, Opera North Children’s Chorus, Opera North Young Voices and Opera North Youth Chorus. The Company also runs an open-access Orchestra Camp in the summer for which there is no need to audition.

More information and applications (by Monday 9 April) for the Opera North Orchestra Academy can be made at https://www.operanorth.co.uk/opera-north-orchestra-academy. Auditions will be held in Leeds on Saturday 21 April.”

 

 

 


If you would like to speak to the Music Workshop Company about booking a tailor-made workshop, or would like to contribute your project to our guest blog, contact us to find out more:

The State of the UK Music Industry in 2017

In October, we looked at options for study at Higher Education for those interested in studying music. This month, we look at the Music Industry in the UK thanks to UK Music and their Measuring Music 2017 and Wish You Were Here 2017 reports.

Each year, UK Music produce a report giving an overview of the UK Music Industry, exploring factors such as the value of the Music Industry and where revenues are being generated. It’s an exciting time for the UK Music Industry with a 6% growth in Total Gross Value Added (GVA) contribution in 2016, a total of £4.4 billion. This breaks down as £2bn from musicians, composers, songwriters and lyricists, £1bn from live music (including festival organisers, ticketing agencies and venues), £640m from recorded music (including music labels and online music distribution), £474m from music publishing, £121m from music producers, recording studios and staff and £96m from music representatives (including collection societies, music managers and trade bodies).

Alongside the contribution to the UK, £2.5 billion was made in export revenue in 2016, with £946m generated by musicians, composers, songwriters and lyricists.

For those thinking of entering the Music Industry, the report shows good news. Employment was up 19% in the sector in 2016 with 142,208 people employed within the UK Music Industry (up from 119,020 in 2015). This includes 89,800 musicians, composers, songwriters and lyricists from big name artists to lesser known musicians. Other large areas of employment include 28,538 people working in live music, 11,300 music producers, recording studios and staff and 9,100 working in recorded music. This really highlights the range of career opportunities across the sector.

The Live Music sector is a very important growth area for the UK Music Industry with a total audience of 30.9 million attending live music events in 2016, up 12% from 2015. This includes 27 million attending concerts and 3.9 million attending festivals in 2016. Of the attendees, 12.5 million people were music tourists in 2016, of these 823,000 were from overseas. The popularity of live music and music tourism in the UK means that 47,445 people are employed full time in music tourism.

While we might think of major festivals being key to music tourism, small venues are also vitally important to the music economy in the UK. 6.2 million people attended events at smaller music venues in 2016 with 107,000 of these being overseas music tourists. Sadly, numbers attending events at smaller venues are declining with a 13% drop in total audience for smaller venues in London last year leading to a 16% drop in spend at smaller venues.

This challenge is being address by the Music Venues Trust – http://www.musicvenuetrust.com, a registered charity, which was formed in January 2014 to protect the UK live music network by securing the long-term future of iconic grassroots music venues such as Hull Adelphi, Exeter Cavern, Southampton Joiners, The 100 Club, Band on the Wall and Tunbridge Wells Forum. However, Beverley Whitrick, Strategic Director of the Music Venues Trust emphasised

For the first time in ten years, the number of GMVs operating in London stabilised; the capital finished the year with the same number of spaces for new and emerging talent as at the start of the year, halting a 15-year decline in the number of spaces. This picture of a more stable sector was reflected across the UK, with regions reporting small but significant increases in audiences in the grassroots and small music venue sector.

The Measuring Music report also explores how people are accessing music. Drawing on findings by AudienceNet’s June 2017 survey, the report highlights the different ways various generations are accessing music. For example, radio accounted for just a tenth of 16-19 year old listening time, while on-demand streaming accounted for 62% of their total listening time 2017. However, for over 65s, more than 65% of their listening is via Radio, with 4% utilising on-demand streaming.

The report also highlights the importance of online access to music, with 31% of people using YouTube to listen to music and only 16% using Spotify and 15% CD. YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and the combination of Amazon Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited hold 87% of the streaming market, according to the AudienceNet survey.

When exploring how people access music online, there are again inter-generational differences, with 59% of 16 to 19-year-olds using for Spotify or Apple Music against 33% who used YouTube for on-demand music with just 34% of the over-45s listening to the two most popular subscription services (Spotify and Apple Music) compared to 39% who get their music from YouTube.

Key highlights for the UK Music Industry include 20 million cumulative track streams in week one for the release of Stormzy ‘s Gang Signs and Prayer. Stormzy is the first grime artist to reach number 1 in the UK Album Charts.

Music is a vital part of the UK’s Economy and it’s continued development is vital. The UK really are world-leaders when it comes to music – did you know, one in every eight albums sold worldwide is by a British artist?


The Music Workshop Company team is passionate about music and music education. If you have any questions for us, would like to pick our brains about a career in music or are interested in booking a workshop, contact us today!

Higher Education: What’s Right for You?

Although the deadline for applying to conservatoires and music colleges has passed, the closing date for university applications through UCAS (UCAS.com) is the 15th January 2018.

This gives plenty of time for potential applicants to consider whether they want to study at university, and if so, which university and which course best suits them.

Alex Baxter, Programme Leader Music Technology Programmes at the University of Hertfordshire advises:

The best degree courses expose their students to the huge range of connected areas which make up music technology as a whole – including those that students may not know even exist when they start their course.  Industry accredited degrees highlight that the broader industry sees the course content as being relevant to current industry practice, and this also offers excellent opportunities for industry input, and live projects where students’ developing techniques can be applied.  Universities which foster collaboration opportunities between courses (ie music technology students working with film & TV and animation students) offer that great extra dimension, as does the opportunity to study abroad or take a work placement.

UCAS offer 1,763 courses with ‘music’ in the title. These range from BMus(Hons) and BA(Hons) in Music to courses in Music Production, Songwriting, Music Performance, Community Music, Music Psychology, Music Technology, Music Composition, Music Business, Musical Theatre, Commercial Music, Digital Music, Popular Music, Sound Design, Composition for Film & Games and Music Industry Management…

That’s before looking at Joint Honours Programmes: Music and another subject.

[Image: Emily]

 

Supporters of universities suggest that benefits for students include the opportunity to study an area of interest, meeting people with both similar and different interests, making connections with fellow students, lecturers and industry, and improving job prospects.

With current fees in the UK at £9,250 per year for many degree courses, plus the additional costs of study (text books, resources, accommodation, travel etc.), it’s important to consider whether university study is for you.

There is a big difference between studying for A-Levels or BTEC and studying at university. Although universities offer a range of support services, particularly for those with learning needs, university studies are much more focussed on individual study and research. This requires self-discipline and focus.

Choosing the right university for you is also important. Different universities have different specialisms and contacts within particular Industries or Sectors. For example, if you are considering studying Music Business or Music Industry Management, you may want to study in or close to London to take advantage of the opportunities in London for internships and attending Industry events.

Universities also have different ‘feels’. Attending open days where you can meet staff and current students and check out the facilities can help you get a good feel for each institution.

[Image: Ольга Жданова]

The teaching staff are also a key element of your university experience, so research the teaching team. See what research they have been involved in, what their position in the industry is and how active they are outside the university. Also find out about industry speakers and alumni. Developing your network while still at university is crucial to developing a career on graduation.

When selecting a university, key questions to ask yourself include:

  • Do you want to live at home or move away?
  • If you want to move away, does the university have halls and suitable accommodation nearby?
  • If studying music, what aspect of music do you want to study? What might you want to do as a job?
  • Do you want an academic programme or a more vocational one?
  • Do you want to study with particular tutors/lecturers?

Key questions to ask the University include:

  • How much contact time do you get on the course? What wider support is available?
  • What experience do you get on the course? For example performing opportunities, recording, managing live projects?
  • What opportunities does the course give for Studying Abroad or a Work Placement as part of the degree?
  • Does the course focus on a specific discipline or does it give you a wide overview of your chosen area?
  • How involved in the programme are named tutors?
  • How many students are in each cohort / class?
  • What jobs do recent graduates get? Where are alumni working 3 – 5 years after graduation?

[Image: Danchuter]

The key to finding the right path for you is in looking at the most important aspects of study thoroughly. The most important decisions centre around whether or not to go to university, which course to study and where to study. It’s vital to take time to visit any universities you’re considering, and to seek advice from family, friends and people in your preferred industry.

The author of this blog, MWC’s Maria Thomas, is a Senior Lecturer on the Music Industry Management course at the University of Hertfordshire. 


If you would like to speak to the Music Workshop Company about anything in this blog, or to book a workshop, contact us today:

TV Talent Competitions: A Route to Success?

TV talent shows have always made for gripping viewing. From programmes such as Opportunity Knocks and Stars in Their Eyes, the familiar format that takes ordinary people and thrusts them to stardom has long been popular.

These days many of the shows with highest ratings feature normal people being shown to excel at some task, whether that be cooking, baking or singing. Celebrity spin-offs abound, but always with the implication that the star is performing outside his or her comfort zone, on the level with the viewer.

There are criticisms that today’s highly produced talent shows are exploitative, but the lure of instant success along with the competitive thrill keeps us watching. Seeing the progress of a contestant from the first audition right through to the record deal gives a sense of, “I knew her back when,” as well as the intoxicating sense that anyone can obtain instant wealth, celebrity and status.

In the last two decades, the popularity of talent shows seems to have grown. Since Pop Idol in 2001, which launched the careers of Will Young, Gareth Gates and third-place runner-up Darius Danesh, and Pop Stars the Rivals which began Cheryl Tweedy’s career, programmes such as X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and various shows searching for the latest musical theatre star have dominated our screens. So much so, in fact, that comedian Peter Kay even created a spoof version called Britain’s Got the Pop Factor… and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice, a title which sums up the extent of TV coverage of these shows.

The process of manufacturing successful pop groups and artists is not new. The band The Monkees whose music is still popular today was created for a TV series, as, more recently, was S Club 7. And the Spice Girls was formed after an audition process advertised in The Stage:

WANTED: R.U. 18–23 with the ability to sing/dance? R.U. streetwise, outgoing, ambitious, and dedicated? Heart Management Ltd. are a widely successful music industry management consortium currently forming a choreographed, singing/dancing, all-female pop act for a recording deal. Open audition. Danceworks, 16 Balderton Street. Friday 4 March. 11 am-5:30 pm. Please bring sheet music or backing cassette.

[Wikipedia]

In January 2017, having lost the rights to its popular singing competition, The Voice, the BBC launched yet another vocal contest. Let it Shine, the brainchild of Take That’s Gary Barlow, will feature a search to find performers for a new musical. The winner will be offered a job rather than a transient record contract, and will tour the UK in a musical based on the songs of Take That for a whole year. Despite Barlow’s assurance that his show will be different, avoiding the negativity and mocking criticism popular in some high-ratings competitions, Let it Shine has already run into problems. There have been accusations that the result is rigged after it became known that several of the participants are already professional musical theatre actors. The media has expressed outrage that people who have already trained to sing should deign to enter a competition that might bag them a job.

Despite the obvious issue that the winner will be expected to perform one or two shows a day for twelve months and will obviously require stamina and a significant level of vocal training to do so, it was apparently expected by the public that only completely untrained singers should enter in order not to dispel the myth that this kind of success is available to everybody.

It’s the other end of the spectrum from shows such as I’d Do Anything, a search to cast the role of Nancy in Oliver! which drew resentment and criticism from theatre professionals for denying a job to working actors.

So are these talent shows a good way to launch a performing career? 

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Leona Lewis

Looking more closely, it becomes apparent that many of those who have succeeded in these competitions and gone on to have careers with any longevity already had some training. X Factor winner, Leona Lewis, attended the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology. Susan Boyle, who won second place in Britain’s Got Talent but has gone on to sell over 19 million albums and win two Grammy Awards had taken years of singing lessons before the surprising audition that rocketed her to overnight fame.

It could be suggested that elements of the pop industry are, to some extent, manufactured. Many successful artists at the moment are either the result of Industry-formed groups or talent shows, and this has always been the case. In this sense, the TV talent show simply becomes an extension of the way the pop moguls create successful artists, developing the process for viewers’ pleasure.

These shows give another route to a career for a few singers. Many will fade back into obscurity. The competition is tough and the criticism offered by judges on screen is rarely constructive – one-time X Factor judge Tulisa’s “You smashed it,” not really in the realms of useful feedback, and because it makes good viewing, the negative comments are often brutal.

For those unprepared for the ensuing career there are pitfalls. Contestants are generally required to sign a contract with the show that may tie them in with a label or management company that may not be interested in promoting them, and that may involve poor fee and royalty terms. And the pressures of life in the spotlight can cause public difficulty on a personal level. Kerry Katona of Atomic Kitten, a band that was created by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark frontman Andy McCluskey, is a prime example of a normal person who has struggled to cope in the public eye, and Susan Boyle has well-documented mental health issues that have caused long breaks from performing.

However, despite the criticisms and temporary setbacks, music has always been a competitive business. Many runners up have ended up with more successful careers than the winner of their show. Interviews with competitors who didn’t win focus on the experience, contacts and opportunities that came from the show.

Aoife Mulholland  was eliminated from How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria in week 5 immediately went onto the West End Stage as Roxy in Chicago. In an interview with the Radio Times in 2012, Mulholland said,

I let myself wallow for about 24 hours, then I picked myself up and realised what an amazing opportunity I had. I had training, contacts, Saturday night TV exposure so I got on the phone and set up a few meetings with different agents.

Talent show winners:

Little Mix – X Factor, 2011

Kelly Clarkson – American Idol, 2002

Leona Lewis – X Factor, 2006

Paul Potts – BGT 2007

Alexandra Burke – X Factor, 2008

Joe McElldery – X Factor, 2009

Jodie Prenger – winner of I’d do Anything now has a TV and acting career including appearances on Loose Women and Celebrity Bargain Hunt

Talent show runners up:

Beyoncé – 2nd place with her group Girls Tyme, later Destiny’s Child on Star Search 1992

Susan Boyle – 2nd place, Britain’s Got Talent, 2009

Jennifer Hudson – 7th place, American Idol, 2004

One Direction – 3rd place, X Factor, 2010

Olly Murs – 2nd place, X Factor, 2009

Stacey Soloman – 3rd place, X Factor, 2009, subsequent winner of I’m a Celebrity

Rebecca Ferguson – 2nd place, X Factor, 2009

Cher Lloyd – 4th place, X Factor, 2010

Samantha Barks – 3rd place I’d do Anything. Later the same year she won the lead as Sally Bowles in a touring production of Cabaret, opposite Wayne Sleep. She went on to play Eponine in the film version of Les Miserables.

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Jennifer Hudson performs to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama

Tell us what do you think! Are TV Talent competitions are a good way to launch a performing career? Comment below to let us know your opinion, advice and experience.

 

 

Making an Album – Advice from the Studio

photoThe music industry has centred around recordings for a long time. The album, which was originally a tool designed to promote the concert tour of an artist, has become the most important aspect for many musicians. But the process of making a record is complex and requires many considerations. Martin Lumsden, head of the Cream Room Recording Studio, talks to the Music Workshop Company about life on the other side of the microphone, and offers invaluable advice for any music students who are developing their own sound.

If you play music the chances are that at some point you will get involved in recording what you play. Whether you are working with a home studio or are engaging professional help, there are a few things you can take care of that will hugely enhance your chances of getting a great result.

Step One – Writing

It’s all too common to make the mistake of wasting a lot of money on trying to create a fully produced, mixed and mastered recording from incomplete or underdeveloped material, rather than spend some quality time (rather than money) on writing and composition and then choosing the pieces that work best.

Step Two – Preparation

Rehearsals

Now it’s really important that you get practising. By the time you get to the studio you want to know arrangements for your songs – the intro, verse, chorus, bridge etc structure – so use your practice time to make sure everyone knows their parts.. Studio time is normally charged by the hour and it will be your time and money that you are wasting if you use your paid for time to figure out or remember how your song or your part goes.

This could also be the point where you may want to start discussing your project with a producer as they have experience and expertise that can assist you with suggestions and guidance to finalise your ideas.

That’s not to say there is no room for creativity during recording – but that really only works if you’ve got a solid foundation laid down first.

Instruments and Gear

If you have instruments, make sure that you have them checked and fixed before heading off to your session. If there is an instrument you need but don’t have, look into renting or borrowing. Often your chosen studio will be able to help but they need to know in advance – don’t just turn up expecting everything to be provided for you. Use the best gear that you can get your hands on, make sure it’s in good condition and that know how to use it.

Step Three – Production

The Team

You are almost ready to get into the studio but first make sure you’ve got a good idea of who is involved and what they are going to be doing. You might be bringing in outside help – a producer, an engineer, session musicians for example – or doing the whole project yourselves, but it’s still a great idea to decide on some responsibilities.

The most important role at this stage is the producer – either someone that you’ve appointed or one of your band members but it really helps to identify who this will be from the start. Remember that a typical studio engineer is not a producer – their function is to set up mics and capture recordings – not help you make creative production decisions. If you’ve appointed a producer to make creative decisions it should be clear that that’s what they are being paid to do.

The Budget

Of course you’ll need to get an idea of how much will it cost to record. Normally it helps to provide as much detail as possible about your project so that the studio can get a clear idea of what is is you want to achieve. Then they should help you manage your time and the money in order to get the best result.

As a rough rule bear in mind that there are three areas that you can negotiate

  • Price
  • Time
  • Quality

Generally speaking you can choose two at the expense of the other one.

For example

  • if you want it cheap and quick you should be anticipating low quality.
  • if you want it quick and good quality, it will almost certainly cost more
  • if you want the highest quality, it will take time and a bigger budget.

Try to work out everything that you will need to spend money on

  • Studio Time
  • Engineer
  • Producer
  • Travel
  • Food
  • Strings etc
  • Don’t forget what about duplication / artwork design & printing / distribution costs

For any studio project your main expense is going to be time. Most studios charge by the hour or by the day – so Steps 1 & 2 are important as they will help you avoid wasting your precious budget.

It’s a really good idea to consider your budget at the start rather than realise you’ve spent lots of money and not got the result that you want. Remember this is going to be the way the world gets to hear your music so it’s better to record a small amount really well than a lot of tracks badly!

And if you’d like to see inside the studio, here’s a short video from the Cream Room…

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